American-born Argentine-British actress Anya Taylor-Joy plays Beth Harmon in Netflix drama The Queen’s Gambit. Netflix
A chess miniseries called The Queen’s Gambit is being called “perfect”. Released by Netflix on Oct 23, the series has earned overwhelmingly positive reviews with an audience score close to 97 percent on review website Rotten Tomatoes and a score of 9.2 out of 10 on Douban.
Based on US novelist Walter Tevis’ 1983 novel of the same name, the seven-episode adaptation tells the story of an orphaned chess prodigy Beth Harmon who learns chess in a basement from a janitor at the orphanage and grows into a champion.
However, unlike many TV shows that depict women falling into cliched romantic relationships to make the heroines become independent and stronger, “the hit chess drama has changed the game”, The Telegraph commented. “It allows Harmon’s talents to shine, and to place the friction firmly on the battles with the existing demons in her mind, rather than with men.”
Harmon suffers from severe mental issues, but with support from her friends, she manages to battle the pressures of fame and her internal demons.
Harmon’s first chess teacher, Mr Shaibel, discovers her immense gift and teaches her to play and win at chess. Jolene, her childhood friend at the orphanage, accompanies her and tells her that “I was all you had. And, for a time, you were all I had. We weren’t orphans ... as long as we had each other”.
In one scene, Harmon’s friends all gather around the phone in New York to help her with strategies during the half-time of her game with her nemesis, Russian champion Vasily Borgov. Harmon eventually becomes the world champion in the then-overwhelmingly-dominated male game of chess and also realizes the true value of friendship.
In such a special year with a pandemic, the show is certain to strike a chord with many.
The Queen’s Gambit helps us “to remember that our friendships are, in the end, almost the only thing we have. Other people matter to us, and we matter to them”, newspaper Malay Mail said.